Jar City (4 stars)

Jar City


(15) 94min

‘Another typical Icelandic murder - messy and pointless’, sighs Inspector Erlendur (Ingvar E Sigurdsson) following the killing of an elderly Reykjavik low-life towards the beginning of Jar City, a starkly atmospheric detective thriller from writer-director Baltasar 101 Reykjavik Kormakur.

Erlendur and his colleagues soon discover that this case is connected to some long-buried secrets, involving police corruption, sexual violence, and the death of a child some three decades earlier from a rare brain condition. Meanwhile a distraught father, Orn (Atli Rafn Sigurdarson) is hacking into a national genetics database – which exists in real life – in order to find out about the mysterious inherited disease that has killed his own young daughter.

An assured adaptation of Arnaldur Indridason’s best-selling crime novel, Jar City fuses its parallel storylines to reveal an Iceland that couldn’t be further away from the tourist brochure clichés. Favouring an almost monochrome colour palette, Kormakur and director of photography Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson confidently switch between the barren, storm-lashed countryside and dreary suburban estates, as Erlendur’s team make their laborious journey through the grisly investigation. The bearded, chain-smoking Sigurdsson is perfect in the role of the wearily dignified Erlendur and the supporting cast add greatly to the sinister mood. The devil is in the details of this distinctive and absorbing police procedural.

Out now on selected release.

Jar City

  • 4 stars
  • 2006
  • Iceland
  • 1h 34min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
  • Written by: Arnaldur Indriðason
  • Cast: Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir, Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson

Compelling Icelandic police procedural thriller about a jaundiced middle-aged cop on the trail of a decades-old mystery involving rape, corruption and murder. Writer/director (and leading Icelandic actor) Kormákur brings some really fresh and haunting twists to the familiar narrative.